Suzanne Olsen's Humor Blog - I don't offend some of the people most of the time

Category: Fears Page 1 of 2

Talents and Fears

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We humans are a stew of talents, motivations, and fears. In the right proportions, our stew can end up being a huge success that feeds many others, or it can be something a dog wouldn’t touch. 

Take, for example, the metaphor I just tried to make. Shakespeare’s pen would have made it a culinary masterpiece. My keyboard has produced a bowl of gruel.

Here’s a mo’ better metaphor. A guy had three servants. He gave the first five talents, the second two talents, and the third, one talent. This metaphor is a tad confusing because a talent is an ancient measure for a weight in gold – approximately one gazillion micrograms to the third power or something like that.

Anyway, the man went away. When he returned, the first two servants had doubled the value of their talents. The man was quite pleased and said, “Well done. Since you’ve been faithful in small matters, I’ll give you great responsibility.” The third servant only had the original talent that the man had given him. “I knew you were a demanding guy, so out of fear I buried the talent in the ground. Here it is back.”

“You lazy and worthless servant,” the man bellowed. “At least you could have put the money in the bank and given me interest, but you didn’t even do that.” He threw the wicked servant out into the darkness where there was gnashing of teeth.

If I had a shekel for every time I’ve heard this story, I’d have a lot of talents. Usually, while listening to this gospel reading at church, my mind is planning what I’m going to do the next day or re-living a fight I had with some idiot, so I don’t pay the proper attention. But last night one word stood out like a giant neon billboard on a long dark freeway: FEAR.

I realized that it’s not our talents that make us successful. Our motivation drives us to use our talents, but fear holds us back. If you’ve read any successful person’s biography, they didn’t sit around watching TV eating Bonbons. They worked hard, motivated to invent something, or move up the corporate ladder, or create a new kind of art, or rob a bank, or take over the world with death and destruction. Motivated people keep working at it, whatever it is.

The people you don’t read about are the chickens, like me. I can honestly say that fear holds me back from just about everything in life. Fear of rejection keeps me from submitting things to newspapers and magazines, or trying to find an agent for the book I wrote. Their rejections are anti-motivation. They lead to months of sulking and a ten-pound weight gain that will only begone after several months of dieting, returning instantaneously, dragging another couple of pounds with it.

Fear keeps me from following through on good ideas – fear that people will think I’m a nincompoop, or that it must be a bad idea if I came up with it.

Fear also keeps me from doing more good in the world. Will the person I’m thinking about helping always want more – if I give them an inch will they take a mile?

I do have moments – times when I step into the abyss of courage. Afterward I’m elated, but that’s usually followed by the torment of questions in my head like, “Why did you…?” and “Why didn’t you…?”

But in spite of these worrisome questions, I feel motivated to surmount my fears and Just Do It. Tomorrow. 

Right now I’m gonna have another hearty bowl of stew, eat some Bonbons, and catch a few old movies on TV. 

Election 2020

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Election 2020 has put an extra five pounds on me. On Tuesday, as I watched the returns coming in, my appetite for salty, crunchy foods hit new highs. We made tacos for dinner, and I ate extra beans and onions and chips and cheese and guacamole, and vigorously shook out way too many drops of Tabasco sauce on everything. I was wound up.  

Record-breaking quantities of food passed through my mouth at dinnertime. With every new red or blue state on the map, I headed for the kitchen. I devoured 80 percent of the crunchy food group before moving on to chocolate. 

It was fear eating. Like when I’m at the cinema watching a scary movie in wide-eyed horror, barely breathing, putting fistful after fistful of faux-butter popcorn in my mouth with one hand, clutching the armrest with the other, not even aware I’m eating until my greasy fingers scratch the bottom of the bucket.

The TV news coverage was scanty filler for strings of commercials. Seven minutes of trying to convince us to buy stuff we don’t need followed by two minutes of newscasters reading numbers on the screen that we can see for ourselves. I loved how they put up – I think it was Arizona – 00 on the red side and 00 on the blue side, and said in all seriousness, “It’s too soon to call.” Ya think?

As the evening wore on, I got really scared. It wasn’t looking good – the pantry was almost empty. The only chocolate left was that bitter dry powder in the Hershey’s cocoa can that has to be cooked in some way to be eaten. At that point, microwaving milk and mixing in the cocoa until it quit floating on top required more effort and gumption than I had. Then I’d have to stir in sugar. Too much work. Fear and food had worn me out.  

Around nine o’clock we took a break and fast-forwarded through a saved sitcom. After checking the election results again, I said. “I’m done. I’ll see what happened in the morning.” It was early to hit the hay, but there was nothing left to eat. In bed, the beans, onions, hot sauce and chocolate did not play nice in my stomach. Skirmishes occurred in assorted locations, muffled battle cries filled the room, explosions rippled throughout the war zone. Sleep did not come easily.

For days I was an overweight ostrich with my head in the sand. I got updates from friends, but I didn’t watch the news again except in short bursts. Scrolling through the stations, the same newscasters (don’t they ever sleep?) said the same things; the same man on NBC waved his arms over the red and blue map like he was casting a spell. I’ll be hearing, “too close to call” in my nightmares for weeks. My nerves were shot. I was frazzled, wrung out, wasted. And hungry.

Now that the election is over, I worry about what’s going to happen in the next couple of months, but I’ll think about that tomorrow. These last few days have been an adrenaline rocket ride. I need to go to the grocery store, clean my house, rake leaves, start a new diet – get my life, (and my pulse) back to normal. But I’m thinking there may be just enough milk to make a cup of hot chocolate, and maybe, if I dig a little more, I’ll find a partial bag of not-too-stale potato chips or a not-too-old piece of candy tucked somewhere I haven’t looked.

Time to start my new exercise program – with running to the kitchen.

Someday….but not today

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As I get older and my body sounds like Rice Krispies – snap, crackle, and pop, I worry that I won’t be able to see, hear, smell, and taste, much less ski, golf, hike, etc. It’s scary. So when those thoughts cross my mind, I beat them back by saying, “Someday I won’t be able to (insert ability I fear I’ll lose, like hit a golf ball without tipping over), but not today.”

We all get old, it just happens to some of us sooner or later. Wrinkles, lumps, bumps, chins that hang like a Shar Pei, brain that refuses to remember names, dates, how to get home from the grocery store.

After I’ve been sitting for a while and stand up, I can’t take a step right away because of aching knees that won’t go. It’s like when you drive a stick shift and you don’t put the clutch in all the way so the gears grind and growl. I’m pressing on the gas pedal but nothing’s moving. Someday my creaky knees will buckle like the scarecrow’s on The Wizard of Oz, but not today.

I’m afraid of losing my hearing. It’s getting harder to understand people, especially in a crowd. I have to fake hearing and hope I catch enough of the conversation to be able to say “uh-huh” when I’m supposed to, like an attentive listener. Sometimes people just look at me and I realize they’ve asked a question. Oh crap. “Hmmm I don’t know” I say, my standard response. “You don’t know if you have a dog?” That I hear.

When someone sticks their iPhone in my face to show me a picture of their giant zucchini, it takes me a while to focus. Tonight my mother-in-law showed me a black and white photo of my husband’s dad as an infant. I looked at the picture and saw a two-headed baby. “Is this a two-headed baby?” I handed the picture to my husband. “It’s a dog,” he said, handing it back. He can’t see either. I grabbed my reading glasses and looked at the picture. “All I see is a two-headed baby.” I will have to find my magnifying glass to tell what it is. Some day I won’t be able to make out anything in a photo, it will all be a blur, but not today.

One of the things I dread losing is my sense of smell. Right now I can smell a rose from ten paces and the stogey smoke on my husband when he comes in from outside. I can predict the weather, “smells like snow,” even before it falls. I told my kids I’d know if they’d been drinking or smoking pot when they were in high school so they’d better not do it, and they believed me. I think it kept them from being too wild, or maybe it made them better sneaks – who knows what they got away with right under my nose. Someday I won’t be able to smell pine trees on a warm summer day, the fresh air after a rain, or marijuana smoke wafting out of a car full of teenagers, but not today.

Come to think of it, losing these abilities may be God’s way of helping us to accept getting old. If I don’t put my reading glasses on, I can’t see all my wrinkles in the mirror, my arms don’t have divots, my knees don’t sag like an elephant’s skin.

And old people smells – yikes! They let gas slip and don’t know it (and don’t hear it either). Old folks homes and hospitals have a particular odor, kind of like Pine Sol, and that’s where us old people will end up most likely. Maybe not being able to hear will be okay, too. The nightly news is just history repeating its bad habits. The scandals. The wars. Same as back in the day.

But I’m not there yet. Someday I will be really old and things won’t function like they should, and I’ll forget how I used to stand up straight and tall and will start saying no to hikes and golf, preferring my soft sofa with a remote control in my hand, watching the clock to remember to take my next pill, going to bed before sunset. But not today. Thank goodness, not today.

Happy Birthday, America!

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It’s our 244th birthday! Ever since July 4, 1776 we’ve spent money buying explosives that light up the sky for several nights, booming so loud that old curse when they go to bed at 8:30 and dogs to bark continuously and pee on the floor. 

On the actual holiday, we gorge ourselves on fried chicken, potato salad, and white sheet cakes with strawberries and blueberries and Cool Whip to make the Stars and Stripes that our bellies refuse to digest, stretching our American elastic waistbands beyond their endurance.

We are a good country, formed on sound principles written in the Declaration of Independence – that revered document we celebrate every July 4. The most famous quote says that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Our country seems like a mess right now with all the protests. We’ve been here before, but my hope is that after this year is we don’t go back again. I hope we will all remember that pursuing happiness can’t happen when you are angry. No matter what side of a political fence you’re on, if you hate others because of the color of their skin or the nation they came from, you cannot pursue happiness. Hate makes you angry. 

Go ahead, think about that for a minute. Has your child (or you, when you were a child) ever had a hissy fit, slammed a door, and shouted, “I hate you?” Are they smiling and happy? No, they’d kick you in the shin if they could get away with it. Now think about that same child looking into your eyes and saying, “I love you.” That’s happiness right there. It’s dang near impossible to find happiness when you’re angry – and pretty easy to be happy when you love someone.

It’s that simple – if we want to pursue happiness, we have to love each other. I know this goes against what you may have been taught by your angry parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, bosses etc., but it is the truth. And the truth will set you free – give you Liberty, and that will give you Life, and free you up to pursue Happiness.

Those old guys were pretty smart back in 1776. 

The video below was sent to me by my 93 year old friend, Pearl. Another very smart person. It’s a short version of a 1985 documentary where a teacher does an experiment in discrimination. It’s only 6 minutes long and well worth watching. The link to the full documentary is below that – it’s about an hour long. Happy 4th of July everyone!

https://www.pbs.org/video/frontline-class-divided/

Death by Sticky Bun

Last week at an outdoor farmer’s market, I didn’t notice this hefty woman coming toward me until she was almost beside me. At the precise second I saw her, she ah-choooooed into her stubby hand. Her sneeze spewed sideways on me like a blast from a fire hose. No social distancing, no sneezing into her elbow, no mask. Oblivious, she lumbered on, enticed by the distant aroma of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls, her hand saturated with sneeze goo.

She waddled over to the cinnamon roll booth, fondled her credit card with her wet, germy hand and pointed to the pastry of her desire. The bun lady took her credit card with a hand encased in a vinyl glove, which was instantly contaminated with a gazillion germs. Germs don’t care if they are on your hand or on your glove. They’re happy either way.

Wandy and Brendy and the Bees

When I was ten or eleven, I had a couple of summer friends, sisters named Wanda and Brenda. Their mother, a stocky woman who wasn’t old enough to wear dentures but did anyway, would holler, “Wan-deeeee, Bren-deeee” so I called them that too. Wandy and Brendy’s house was full of ceramic figurines they called what-nots – I called them”what-not” to have. Ceramic cats, dogs, clowns, toadstools with frogs and pixies perched on the coffee and end tables, mantle, top of the TV. No horizontal surface was left uncovered.

In Trouble with the IRS – Again

That lady called again – the one who sounds like she’s just finished smoking a couple cartons of cigarettes. She said I’m in trouble with the IRS. I didn’t quite get the reason because she won’t leave a complete message. The recording always starts mid-sentence, spoken with her deep, gravely voice: “…with the IRS. You need to call the tax center immediately to avoid additional penalties and possibly jail time. Call 515 837….”

Like every American, I’m terrified of the IRS. They have the power to bankrupt even famous people like Willy Nelson. Once I got a letter from them saying I’d made an error on a tax return I’d filled out three years before. They charged me nearly two hundred dollars in interest and penalties – the math error itself was only about thirty-nine bucks – but I’m not complaining (in case they’re reading this). I’m just happy I only had to pay three years worth of interest for them to get around to noticing the error.  

I don’t mess with the IRS.

But here’s what I can’t understand. If they’re so powerful, and they’re really after me, can’t they at least leave a whole, intact message?

And why doesn’t the IRS have a 1-800 number to call back? They’re going to throw me in jail AND make me pay for the call?

Also, why is their agent always a woman with a low, threatening voice like she’s at some Mafia funeral – like she’s saying, “You better cooperate or you’ll be next on Guido’s list.” Can’t the IRS hire a regular person to terrify me?

Fear of Being Afraid

It took a lot of guts for me to get up on stage last night at the open mike. I am the bravest coward I know. Once in high school a friend wrote a report and described a person who was afraid of everything. Someone else in the class said, “Hey, that’s your friend, Suzy!” Her report was about me, I found out later. I wasn’t afraid to bitch slap the friend who used me for her report, I’ll tell you that.

But seriously, do I use the words “bitch slap” too often? I actually look for places I can insert those words. Like above – I did not bitch slap my friend. I just never spoke to her again. Same thing, but, in my mind, it doesn’t sound as funny as bitch slap.

I am afraid of everything. I’m especially afraid I’ve written about this topic before, because every time I do something I can’t believe I had the nerve to do, I always want to tell everyone about it. Maybe I like to show that even though I’m timid and shy and a scaredy-cat, I’m not afraid to act, so you better not mess with me.

I have been in scary situations that people think I’m making up, but usually it’s because I have no other choice. When I’m doing something brave, my hands are shaking, my voice is shaking (if it shows up at all), and I’ve got “Sissy Girl” written all over me in my body language – fidgeting, crossed arms, shaking leg, slouching – I’ve got ‘em all. If I don’t, it’s because I remembered reading that these were signs of fear and I try to counteract them. Here’s a site that has some of them if you are nodding your head right now and thinking, “hmmm, I do that stuff all the time…” www.ehow.com/how_2383301_read-fear-body-language.html

My biggest fear, however, is that fear itself will keep me from doing something. Like going onstage. I sat there trying to talk myself out of it, but in the end I knew I had nothing to lose except pride, reputation, a few years of my life from a heart attack, and my mind. Down at the heart of it, though, fear alone was the only reason for me not to go onstage.

I battle that day and night – whether new people will like me at a party (they seem to, but I’m ALWAYS afraid they won’t), whether people will read this blog (I have a bunch of site members, but there’s a constant fear that I may lose my sense of humor), whether I will trip and fall on my face, say something stupid, hurt someone’s feelings, forget an appointment, do something embarrassing – you name it, I’m afraid of it.

But I keep saying to myself, “Just keep on doing it. Just show up. Just try. Just do damage control if you have to.” And sometimes I say, “Just shut the F up,” when my fears are on the verge of completely derailing me.

Right now, for instance, I’m afraid it’s not okay for me to reveal my fears in public. But you know what I say to that? Screw it. I’ve got to frickin’ post something and this is already written, so screw it. I’m doin’ it!

Surviving Through Lunacy

I was walking my dog on some wooded trails near my house when I passed a creepy guy. I’d been deep in thought, probably day dreaming about the cookies I’d made and how I wished I had stuck a few in my pocket. I wasn’t thinking about being alone out there with my 9-pound dog, who, as far as protection goes, would have about the same effect as being pinched by a toddler if she chomped down on an attacker.

Hair started rising on my arms, and I was getting that prickly feeling on the back of my neck. I nonchalantly quickened my pace while I thought about worst-case scenarios. He could have turned around and was now following me, and would soon close the gap between us. It was a cold, cloudy, ugly, miserable day and we were probably the only souls in that million-acre park with nothing but lonesome trees to hear my screams.

I was getting frantic. I couldn’t outrun him, or outfight him. I had to make myself unappealing to him, but how? And then I came up with a brilliant plan. I started talking to the dog.

“I can’t believe I got cooties,” I said loudly, as if the dog was deaf. “I itch all over.” I feverishly scratched my head. “This is the most stubborn case I’ve ever had. They’re everywhere.”

To prove it, I extended the scratching to my arms and back. “I sure hope you don’t get the cooties from me. You think fleas are bad, they’re nothing compared to these cooties. They get in your hair and all over your bedding. It’s almost impossible to get rid of ’em.” Then I let out an exasperated shout, “Oh I HATE these cooties.”

I got the idea about talking out loud from hiking in grassy areas where snakes could be lurking.

“Listen here, snakes,” I say. “I’m a big, mean, snake-stomping machine and you had better crawl out of my path unless you want your eyeballs to squirt out of your head when I come down on you with my size 11 shoe. You better get on down the road and don’t look back or I’ll flatten you into a snakeskin belt. You better take your rattling behind on out of here or I’ll twist it off and give it to a baby for a play pretty. You better…” and so on.

I jabbered about the cooties for about fifteen more minutes, scratching like a flea-infested orangutan in a kid’s movie, not daring to look back or slow down. Finally I came up to the road. Only then did I turn and see an absolutely empty path.

“We scared him away,” I told my dog. She looked up at me and said, “I’ve been itching like crazy this whole time with all this talk. You better NOT give me the cooties or I will rain down an unholy ocean of barfing and diarrhea all over the house.”

She may be little, but I don’t doubt that she could do it. I had to explain what I was doing on the way up our street.

Yes the neighbors think I’m crazy, but I’m still here to tell about the close call I had today. I might be crazy, but crazy like a fox. No?

Horrorscopes

I like to read my horoscope. It’s frustrating, though, because I want something specific. If I’m going on a trip, I want it to say, “You will have a safe trip and your luggage will arrive on time.” Usually all I get is some random words strung together that could mean anything at all.

Lately the horoscope person has taken to posting sage advice. Perhaps she moonlights as a writer of fortune cookies and confuse what she’s supposed to be doing. I’m getting advice like, “No one likes a stick in the mud. You must always allow a little wiggle room.”

What does this mean? That I should be more lenient with my kids? That I should not try to do everything perfectly? That I should go dancing?

Today I had a unique horoscope. It said that Saturn and Uranus are in a fight in the sky so I shouldn’t try to start anything for several days. Honest, that’s what it said.

First of all, you can’t think of the name of that particular little planet without laughing. And to think that it’s up there in the sky picking a fight with Saturn makes it all the more funnier.

Let me clarify this. My horoscope said they were at odds with each other. That’s the same thing as a fight, right? Are they getting in a shoving match? Are they calling each other names?

Uranus: “You’re just a big rock surrounded by a bunch of dirty rings.”

Saturn: “Well you’re such a little pebble they don’t even think you’re a real planet.”

Uranus: “Why are you such a jerk?”

Saturn: “You calling me a jerk? You’re the one who started it.”

Uranus: “Did not.”

Saturn: “Did too.”

Uranus: “Well, you are surrounded with dirty rings, so there.”

Saturn: “At least I’m not an asshole.”

Almost as amusing as these two squabbling is the statement that I’m not supposed to start ANY activity. Does that mean I should not shower, walk the dog, or go grocery shopping? Aren’t these all considered activities?

I’m going to cut this out of the paper and show it to my husband. “Look, I can’t do the laundry for several days. You’re on your own.” And, “don’t even think about waking me up at 2 am wanting some activity. You know what my horoscope said.”

Thinking of horoscopes makes me think about the mirror I broke two days ago. I’m supposed to have 7 years of bad luck. In an heroic effort to counteract that, I’ve avoided black cats and ladders. Plus I’ve picked up several filthy coins off the street.

I was at my daughter’s track meet this evening (she pole vaulted 9 feet!!!!), and a girl dropped some change on the bleachers. The bouncing coins made loud clanging noises that was music to my ears because I figured I’d redeem some of that seven years with a couple of lucky coins (“find a coin and pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck”). I thought that girl wouldn’t bother picking them up because she was so embarrassed. But she soon recovered and said to her friends, “I’ve got to pick all of it up or I’ll have bad luck.”

So much for good luck for me. That darned mirror is probably why my planets are pulling each other’s hair and shooting spit wads at each other through space. And why I’ve got to avoid activity like shopping and getting a pedicure. It’s going to be a long seven years.

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Copyright © 2020 by Suzanne Olsen